A new street that will go from Riverside Avenue in downtown Spokane through the Riverpoint campus will be named for Martin Luther King Jr.
The Spokane City Council voted unanimously Monday night to rename a street generally referred to as the “Riverside Extension” in honor of the slain civil rights leader.
The Rev. Happy Watkins of New Hope Baptist Church said naming the street was a fitting tribute: “Martin Luther King was about education. He was about hope. He was about faith.”
It is also a way to support diversity in Spokane, said the Rev. Lonnie Mitchell of Bethel AME Church. “Do this in the spirit of Unity in the Community.”
About 770 communities across the country have already named streets in honor of King, Derek Alderman, a cultural geographer at East Carolina University, told the Washington Post last year.
But dedicating a street to King’s memory in Spokane is the culmination of a 25-year process that began with a march “from the jail house to the courthouse” before King’s birthday was set aside as a federal holiday, said Ivan Bush, a local civil rights advocate.
During that time, there were repeated requests to local elected officials to name something to honor King, he said, but they never received approval.
One proposal in the early 1990s to rename a stretch of the arterial that covers Market, Greene and Freya met resistance because of the cost of changing addresses for existing businesses.
The Riverside extension didn’t face that opposition because it will be a new street; the older portion of Riverside west of Division won’t be renamed.
Supporters also mounted their campaign by speaking to individuals and small groups, rather than at large meetings, to have a chance “to talk to the heart, not to the head,” Bush said.
Rich Hadley, president and chief executive officer of Greater Spokane Inc., said the business organization supports the change. It’s appropriate to name the gateway to the city’s growing education district after King, “for whom access to an education for all was a lifelong cause,” he said.
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